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New law establishes minimum number of school days

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Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona has signed into law House Bill 2486, which establishes a minimum number of instructional hours for Hawaii public school students.

Under the new law, all public schools will be required to have a minimum of 180 days of instruction in the 2011-2013 school years.

“The focus of this law is really upon improving public education,” said Aiona, the acting governor, in a news conference today. “Its objective is obviously to prepare our students for either the 21st century workforce or college.”

Elementary schools will be required to have 915 hours of instructional time, while middle and high schools will have to have 990 hours of instruction.

In the 2013-2015 school years, all schools must have 180 instructional days but expand their instructional time to 1,080 hours.

The measure was drafted in response to the controversial furlough program for teachers, which left students with 17 fewer school days in the 2009-10 school year and gave Hawaii the shortest instructional calendar in the nation.

Melanie Bailey, the parent of a sixth grader who pushed the law requiring a minimum amount of instructional time, said she hopes the measure is the “first step to showing what a difference members of the community can make.”

She added, “My hope is that a decade from now we can take this toxic year and consider it the year we changed public education.”

Public charter schools were exempted from the new law, which explicitly defines instructional time to exclude lunch or recess.

Aiona acknowledged the law will probably cost the state more money, but couldn’t say how much.

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